Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Casilla out; Tolbert in.

The Twins demoted second baseman Alexi Casilla to Triple-A Rochester recalling Matt Tolbert to assume his roster spot reports the Star Tribune.   The move is not all too surprising, though it does contradict recent comments by manager Ron Gardenhire who just this past weekend stated that he did not wish to "ship [Casilla] to somebody else because he was not hitting right now." 
This about-face was most likely incited by Casilla's defensive shortcoming in recent games. His offensive woes followed him on to the field, too.  Following a play in which Casilla did not throw home on a cut on Tuesday night, allowing Tigers catcher Gerald Laird score, Justin Morneau told reporters after the 9-0 whitewashing "A lot of them are mental mistakes that don't show up as errors, like not thinking to throw the ball home. Not thinking of the play ahead of time before it happens."  Gardenhire can stand idly by while a player struggles at the plate, but when those struggles are carried on to the field, it is time for adjustments. 
Casilla's continued failure in a vital spot in the batting order amplified his struggles.  After making 13 valuable sacrifice hits last year, Casilla has yet to prove that he can even lay a bunt down.  On Monday, his lack of hustle ended up as a Tigers' double play. Up until this point, Casilla was 14-for-84 (.167) with just two extra base hits on the year.  At the plate, his discipline appeared lacking in the first month.  His chase rate for pitches outside of the zone was up to 34 percent, well above his 25 percent a year ago (and the league-average of 24 percent).  Because of his poor pitch selection, his contact suffered, resulting in more infield pop flies. 
Tolbert provides above-average versatile defense, giving Gardenhire another utility infielder that can support Brendan Harris and Nick Punto at the middle infield positions.  At the plate, Tolbert is a prototypical line drive hitter with a smattering of power.  Seven of his 25 hits at Rochester this far have gone for extra bases. After an injury sidelined him in May, Tolbert returned in September to go 10-for-30 (.333) with three triples in 11 games. 
With the left-handed Mark Hendrickson on the mound for the Orioles tonight, the Twins will likely use Harris at second base and in Casilla's spot in the order.